Part 3 by Zen Greene

"Margaret, how often have I reached out to you only to have you withdraw and create an even greater distance between us than before? Every time we've managed to become closer, we've always ended up farther apart afterwards. When we said goodbye, you made it perfectly clear that you wanted me to stay away. Trying to get through to you when you don't want to be reached can be as difficult as trying to break through the Great Wall of China using a plastic spoon."

The exasperation in his voice made her smile slightly. Hawkeye had never lacked perseverance. She could almost picture him hunched in front of that Great Wall, diligently working away at it for years until his little plastic spoon had tunneled through to the opposite side. "Really? Did it seem perfectly clear? It wasn't nearly so clear to me, not even then. It has become less and less clear with time. I didn't entirely know what I wanted then; though I was closer to knowing, I think, than when I first arrived at the 4077. Experience with Frank, ...and Donald, taught me that. Or at least, it taught me what I *didn't* want." She smiled ruefully, a little of the old assurance briefly lighting her eyes.

"You know, I never really understood just what it was that you saw in Frank. Even allowing for the vagaries of taste...."

Margaret glanced out at the crowd for a moment, then back at Hawkeye, assessing the nature of the response she should give. "He was perfectly obedient, always ready, and he didn't affect me in any deeper sense. What more could I have asked from a man?" The hard, sardonic look in her eyes made him look away.

He stared down into his martini for a long time, swirling the mixture around and around in his glass, as if he could see the two clear liquids merging further with each movement. "That's all you wanted?" Part of him retreated before that look. He didn't want her to see just how that look affected him. He still hated that part of her, just as he had when they had first met. Over the years they had worked and lived through the war together, his more imaginative side had come to equate her with the pearl of great price that he had read of in a story. But that look reminded him of a diamond. It was merciless. It spared no one, not even herself.

"When was it ever important for me to know what I wanted? I was raised to a life of obedience - to be the perfect little soldier. My father wanted a boy. He had daughters. I felt I had to make up for disappointing him by being exactly what he expected in a child. I joined the army, as a good son should. Before I even had a chance to find my place there, I was shipped out to the war - same as you." Her fury shot every word out like a bullet. "But how was I to understand your constant crap about civilian life? Had I ever really been there?"

"Margaret, I'm sorry." He reached across the table to touch her hand briefly, not long enough to cause her to pull away. "We were too different. There's no way we could have understood each other at the beginning. But I thought that we had finally reached an understanding at the end." He watched her eyelids flicker briefly; but she didn't look away.

"Why did you always turn away from me? What were you afraid of?"

"Maybe it wasn't what was in you that I was worried about." She exhaled quietly and stared for a moment at the chattering crowd at the other end of the bar. Somebody had to be honest here. What could it hurt... now? She glanced down at her untouched Scotch, remembering how, in the past, it would have disappeared by now. Maturity had its drawbacks; *that* much, at least, was certain. So much had changed, in so few years. Yet it seemed like aeons since she had first met Hawk at the 4077. All objective criteria said that both their lives had improved since then: no bombs, shorter hours, higher pay and professional recognition. But the subjective criteria were more ambivalent.

She didn't like that lack of clarity. She had always hated ambivalence. That, and subtlety, were Hawk's department. Every conversation seemed like a chess game with him. She no longer had the energy for it. Looking at him, she wondered if he did either. His eyes betrayed the fact that although he had left the war, the war had never left him. Margaret sighed inaudibly. *That,* at least was one problem she didn't have. The past was almost a blank. It was almost as if she had never been there at all. No time, no place, had yet touched her deeply enough to leave that kind of scar.

Margaret turned the conversation away from her own life. "Your life in Crabapple Cove must be a pleasant change after our time in Korea." 

Part 2 | Part 4